What The Abandoned Freeze In Alcohol Duty Means For Investors

September and October 2022 have been months that have caused considerable confusion and concern for people involved in whisky investment, from distilleries, manufacturers, stores, auction houses and long-term investors alike.

The reason for this is a rate freeze on alcohol duty that lasted less than a month.

On 23rd September 2022, as part of a fiscal event known officially as The Growth Plan 2022 but unofficially as a mini-budget, then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwartang announced a freeze on alcohol duty rates from February 2023 until the following year.

This lasted 24 days before the Chancellor that succeeded him, Jeremy Hunt, suspended the proposals alongside nearly every part of the Growth Plan, which has led to criticism from the Scotch Whisky Association.

The SWA’s Chief Executive, Mark Kent, noted that the decision “stripped” certainty and stability away from the industry, noting that it would add pressure to distilleries, the people who work there and the UK hospitality industry as a whole.

The duty freeze would have meant an average bottle of Scotch Whisky would have cost £1.35 less than without the freeze to duty, alongside a 70 per cent tax.

The British Beer and Pub Association estimated that the freeze would have provided a £300m saving, which it described as a relief in the wake of rapidly increasing costs and a cost of living crisis for many pubgoers.

The biggest concern amongst the industry, however, is that loss of stability, as at no point can suppliers know exactly what market conditions they are bottling their whisky in to, which whilst less of a concern for limited editions can lead to problems for mass-market suppliers.

It is somewhat less of a concern for collectors, traders and investors, however, as this duty is paid by the manufacturer as soon as it is produced, but it could potentially have a knock-on effect that at worst could lead to an increase in silent distilleries.

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